Thank you.

I don’t know how long I sat in front of my computer, trying to figure out how to begin this final post. The only thing that seems appropriate is to begin by thanking you.

For giving me your time.

For sharing with me your thoughts.

For putting up with me when I have been wrong.

I have been so humbled by all of the time you have shared with me.

There is a season for all things, and it is hard for me to believe that I have kept this season going, kept this torch lit for seven years. My life is in a very different place than it was seven years ago. Blogging itself is very different. Seven years ago, I secretly started a blog, on a whim, and didn’t even tell my wife for a month. I didn’t want to tell her if I was just going to quit.

Today, I am several years into a teaching career that I love. I have a wide vision for the program I am building. I am getting my feet wet in a new church and look forward to a new chapter in my ministry life. I am a dad to a child for whom Cheri and I prayed for years. And I have many other ambitions and projects, decades worth of work, that I want to accomplish. When I started writing, none of this existed.

Blogging has been a fruitful pastime for me. It brought me two books. I was listed among the most widely read Christian bloggers by Church Relevance. I got to travel to Africa. And I met, in person and online, many insightful, gifted writers, whom I admired. Cheri and I were invited into the homes of readers when we traveled. It is for all of these reasons that I have found it hard to say good-bye to this chapter.

But I add up the things I now do, and the things I wish to do, and it is clear that the time has come. I am supposed to be a teacher. I am supposed to be a leader. I am supposed to be a dad and husband. But right now, I am not supposed to be a writer, at least not in this capacity.

I leave this chapter, this platform, with mixed feelings. On the one hand,  am not so sure that the world or the church has improved in seven years. I am not certain that all of our words, our social media, our memes and quotes has accomplished what we have hoped for. Next week, I will almost certainly have thoughts and feelings about the goings-on in the world, but I do not feel that my first and best efforts should be dedicated to sharing those feelings publicly.

On the other hand, while I may sometimes be cynical, anxious or fearful about the state of the world, I am eternally optimistic about the Church (capital C). As Screwtape told his nephew, we humans cannot see the Church as the Enemy sees it. We see the human edifice, the petty ideas, the big show, all of which is destined to go as chaff. But Christ’s Church is his Bride, and it is eternal. We may be living in a cultural and spiritual slump in this generation. But the flame of the Church, however stifled, however faint, will never die out.

On that note, I leave you, friends, brothers, sisters. I give you my most humble and heartfelt thanks for the time you have shared with me. May you feel all the grace and love of Jesus in your lives.

Prestonwood Baptist Church rolls out the red carpet, er, giant American flag for Republican Candidates

Prestonwood Baptist Church rolls out the red carpet, er, giant American flag for Republican Candidates

There’s a billboard near downtown Kansas City. I pass it on a regular basis.

It says “Until Jesus Runs This Town.”

I have to admit, I never read the fine print to see what group is behind the sign, partly because it’s on the highway, and partly because I’m laughing to myself because I always imagine the sign saying, “Until Jesus Ruins This Town.”

Terrible, I know.

A few days ago, several Republican presidential candidates met in Texas, courting the “evangelical” vote. I didn’t follow what was said down there, but I can imagine. Candidates make soundbites, where they affirm how important the evangelical vote is, and Christians show up for the pandering.

Yeah, if there’s one thing as American as baseball and apple pie, it’s political pandering. We love ourselves some pandering.

It’s a perennial theme in American politics, especially when we mix religion and politics. It’s the idea of “taking back America,” of reclaiming America, of placing Jesus in his rightful place atop our governments.

And I wonder, as we wade through what is going to be a very long election cycle, if we even know what we are talking about when we say we want to “take back America.”

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One of the hardest things about being a teacher is that I want my students to be successful.

I want their projects to look good.

I want them to be proud of their work.

But, I need them to fail, and fail quite a bit on the way to success.

At least three times last week, with three different classes, this came up. Kids wanting to know how to do some complex thing, create something for which there is no rubric, no step-by-step or color-by-number. They want me to walk them through the process.

Part of me wonders if it’s a result of my own shortcomings. Maybe I’ve held their hands too much, made my instructions too explicit. Maybe I have implied that there is always a right way or a single way to solve a problem.

Part of me wonders if it is our educational environment. We teach kids in math that there is a formula for everything. Plug in the numbers and out pops an answer.

Either way, I feel a little guilty, a little unloving, as I tell the students that the answer to their question is just figure it out.

Take the clay or the paper or the paint and move your hands around them until it all looks right. If it doesn’t look right, you haven’t worked long enough.

That really is the most loving thing I can tell them. Eventually, maybe some of the students begin to realize what I am doing. They realize that the mold they fit comfortably inside all day doesn’t really work for the Art room. Maybe they realize that no one is telling me exactly what to do as their teacher, or how to do everything. It takes improvisation. It takes instinct.


Mostly, it takes a willingness to fail, to make bad work.

Success, real success, is just that: the result of a lot of failure, a lot of bad work.

There are many days when I want to shortcut that process and just tell kids the answer. I want their work to look good now. 

But I know better. When I do that, it isn’t real success. It’s just a pretty picture.

Lots of people have been burned by church.Pulpit

I probably cannot think of too many more popular topics for bloggers and Christian writers.

Here’s what’s wrong with the church.

Here’s all the ways the church has offended me.

Here’s how the people who go to church are hypocrites.

I get it.

I really get it.

Because I’ve been in church leadership.

The thing about being hurt by church, being offended, being burned, is that I’m not sure how many people ask themselves “who has been burned the worst by church?” We assume that our experience is the worst. We think that our crisis of faith was the deepest.

But I can tell you something. I can tell you who has been burned the worst by church.

It might well be the guy standing up front.

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Why do people love power so much?

Why do some people conquer others, enslave others?

Why do some people become dictators?

Why do some people run for president, even if it’s just president of the homeowner’s association?

Because people love power. We love to feel a sense of control. And the biggest variable in our lives, the thing that makes us feel the most out of control is other people.

That’s why some marriage break down. Because both people are vying for control, trying to get the upper hand.

It’s why churches split. Because someone is trying to get control of the group who should not.

The love of power brings down companies, empires and marriages.

On Sunday, we were discussing what Jesus was doing in the garden at Gethsemane, how he is resisting evil with every fiber of his being. And yet, when the guards come for him, he doesn’t break free or get control of the situation. He submits. We all know about non-violent resistance. Well Jesus practices non-violent non-resistance. 

He empties himself of all power.

Ordinary humans aren’t so good at that. Even when we say “hate the sin, love the sinner,” the hate part tends to overshadow the love part, and we go on another quest to control others. Jesus, on the other hand, hates sin and evil so much, that he refuses to do anything to take away evil’s power over him.


The thing about power is that it is always tempting and always fleeting. We humans are able to feel very puffed up when we come into an exceedingly small amount of it. And yet, no matter how much of it we ever get, it never feels like enough, because there are still people who are outside our control.

So if our agenda this week includes gaining more power, maybe we should recalibrate our priorities.

I’m not a Catholic.papa

I’ve never had a particular interest in becoming a Catholic. But last week, I followed Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. with much interest, as I am sure many of my fellow Protestants did.

Francis represents something new and novel for people my age. See, for much of my life, John Paul II was the pope, but by the time we came of age to know anything about the world, he was pretty old and frail. To look at old photographs when he was young and vibrant, commanding crowds of thousands is almost surreal. Like Billy Graham in a robe.

And then there was Benedict for a few years, and nothing against him, but this is the first time in many of our lifetimes that we know a pope that is out and about in the world. Like it or not, he goes where he wishes and comments on issues that are relevant to every human being on earth.

And so, as I followed the Pope’s visit, I also kept up with what people were saying about the Pope’s visit.

People who call themselves Christians.

People who claim to stand up for morals and righteousness.

And I found myself shocked, though perhaps I should be past shock by my age. But there is a whole world of so-called Christians who I have absolutely nothing in common with.

All it took was a visit from the Pope to reveal it.

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